Cooking With Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Robert Hurley
Posted on: January 17, 1999

I am looking for information about using herbs in daily cooking. I have grown herbs for some time and has only used a few of my herbs. Please let me know where I can get more information.

There is nothing like using herbs in daily cooking. There is almost no dish that would not benefit from a dash of herbs. From eggs at breakfast to sandwiches and salads at lunch, to dinner at night, fresh herbs can enhance flavour and health-giving properties of most foods. Fresh-chopped herbs, especially, are nice to use in many dishes because they give colour and fresh aroma to complement the flavour boost. Even convenience food junkies will find herbs will improve the flavour a lot. Kraft’s Macaroni and Cheese, even, can be improved with chives, basil or oregano.

There are, of course, zillions of cook books out there extolling the virtues of using herbs. Often they have plenty of recipes and nice pictures, but just as often they seem to fail to truly teach the reader how to really know herbs and how they can be used. It’s the difference between someone having just a superficial knowledge from just following recipes and someone who truly knows and understands the flavours of herbs to know when to try a new, exciting herb-food combination. The latter is the true gourmand, the true artiste, the one who will dare to put tarragon in beet salad (fantastic!) or cumin seed in squash soup (mmmm!), and there is no reason why anyone cannot become one if one has a good guide.

Who are the real guides, the people who have this talent to teach the essence of herbs? Two writers I admire are Susan Belsinger and Pat Crocker. Susan Belsinger wrote a dozen or so books, including "Flowers in the Kitchen", "Basil: An Herb Lover’s Guide" (with Thomas DeBaggio), "Herbs in the Kitchen" (with Carolyn Dille), and "The Onion Book" (with Carolyn Dille; covers shallots, Egyptian onions, leeks, etc.). All of these books are available from Richters and described in the Richters online catalogue at the Richters website.

Pat Crocker’s two books, "Recipes from Riversong" and her new book, "The Healing Herbs Cookbook", are Richters bestsellers, also available on the Richters website catalogue.

The best guide is your own taste buds. Nothing beats the thrill of experimentation and the discovery of a great new herb-food combination. Trial and error will get you far once you have down pat the basics – the classic herb-food combinations such as basil with tomatoes, rosemary with chicken, chives with eggs and cheese, etc.

Here’s to great food and fun!

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